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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Immigration Regulation Eased After Firms Complain

In a concession to business groups, the Homeland Security Department will significantly scale back its planned crackdown this winter on federal contractors that hire illegal immigrants.

Under a rule published yesterday, the agency said only contractors that do more than $100,000 in federal work will be required to use an electronic government system to check the work documents of new hires. Originally, officials had proposed that companies doing $3,000 in federal work must comply.

The agency also said it would require federal contractors to check only laborers used on specific contracts, instead of their entire workforce.

The revisions significantly reduce the number of companies that will be subject to the program, which will apply to federal contracts and solicitations issued after Jan. 15. The Bush administration had hoped to make the work eligibility system, called E-Verify, mandatory for nearly 200,000 government contractors, covering about 4 million U.S. workers over 10 years.

The government did not say how many companies would be exempted, but stated that it awarded 2.8 million new contracts last year at or below the $100,000 threshold. The contracts, mostly set-asides for small businesses, were worth $9 billion, or less than 3 percent of federal obligations.

In any case, the program will usher in a new degree of employee scrutiny in a wide swath of corporate America that does federal business, including industrial giants with household names such as General Electric, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, as well as Beltway mainstays such as computer services firms CACI, ManTech International and SRA International. [Mark Godsey]

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